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February 9, 2016

Is Hyundai Super Serious About Privacy?

In the most popular advertisement during Super Bowl 50, comedian Kevin Hart is an over-protective father who uses the Hyundai Car Finder application (powered by Blue Link) to stalk his daughter’s boyfriend during a date. Hart pops up everywhere — from a carnival game to a helicopter hanging above the two at Inspiration Point.

Hart’s persistence eventually scares the boyfriend into bringing Hart’s daughter back home early, safe and sound. The commercial ends touting the benefit of the Car Finder app: “Because a Dad’s Got to Do, What A Dad’s Got to Do.”

It is rather ironic that Americans find a lack of privacy humorous. Taken in a different context most would not find this situation funny. Imagine an ex-boyfriend capable of using the Car Finder app to target and harass his former girlfriend just because he remembers her password. Or what about law enforcement access to the Hyundai Genesis to track your whereabouts?

The marketing language for Car Finder is rather benign on the Hyundai website: Car Finder allows you to find your vehicle on a map if you within a 1-mile radius of your car. It also gives you the option to tag your vehicle’s current location for future reference.

Trust me, I am not a bore. I enjoy comedy more than most and found the Super Bowl ad to be extremely funny. As a father of a teenage daughter, it definitely piqued my interest. Yet, if I were Hyundai I would combine the humor with some specific materials that address the ways in which the company ensures location data does not get into the wrong hands.

If you take a look at the Car Finder FAQ, there are more than 30 commonly asked questions that are addressed – from what do the buttons on my rearview mirror do to how do I download apps available for my vehicle?

The company fails to address two of the most critical questions:

  • How do we ensure that data and information about your life and your whereabouts stay private?
  • How do we protect your privacy?

The automobile industry is evolving faster than it ever has. Computing power is just as important as horsepower. Cars have become mobile data centers capable of communicating with other vehicles and a wide variety of systems. It is these advanced communications that will enable autonomous vehicles, but also could expose control of all aspects of an automobile — from the gas pedal to windshield wipers. Thanks to the unique IP addresses of each car, all of these interactions leave a digital footprint capable of tracking the actions of drivers.

So, while a memorable Super Bowl commercial can and should be funny, automakers like Hyundai need to ensure that they are deadly serious about protecting the privacy of their customers.

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